Clinton Condemns Cyber Attacks, Calls For Internet Freedom

U.S. Secretary of State calls access to uncensored information a priority.

January 21, 2010

D.H. Kass

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a speech today at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., a 250,000 square-foot facility dedicated to news history, called the Internet the “new, iconic infrastructure of our age,” tied it to “certain basic freedoms” and called for uncensored global access to information available online.

Clinton presented her remarks amid a backdrop of Google Inc.’s recent claims of intrusion into its content by the Chinese government.

“We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas,” she said, comparing attempts to curb Internet access to a modern day equivalent of the Berlin Wall.

“We believe it’s critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms,” she said. “Freedom of expression is first among them. This freedom is no longer defined solely by whether citizens can go into the town square and criticize their government without fear of retribution. Blogs, emails, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas, and created new targets for censorship.”

Clinton pointed to China, Iran, Saudia Arabia and Egypt among governments that have either censored content on the Internet or harassed users.

“In the last year, we’ve seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information,” she said.

“China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet. In Vietnam, access to popular social networking sites has suddenly disappeared. And, last Friday in Egypt, 30 bloggers and activists were detained.”

Countries that bar access to parts of the Internet or filter search engine results disregard the United Nation’s Declaration on Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of information, she said.

“As I speak to you today, government censors somewhere are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history,” she said.

Google’s flap with Chinese government

Clinton addressed the continuing issue between Google and the Chinese government regarding censorship of its local language search engine results and charges that Chinese authorities hacked into the G-mail accounts of human rights activists.

“The internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China, and it is fabulous,” Clinton said. “But countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century.”

She called on the Chinese government to conduct an investigation into the Google allegations and make the results transparent.

“Now, the United States and China have different views on this issue, and we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently in the context of our positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship.”

Reports quoted Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei to downplay China’s issues with Google.

He was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as telling Chinese reporters that the “Google incident should not be linked to bilateral relations, otherwise that would be over-interpreting it.”

Google, which recently said that it no longer wants to censor content on its Chinese web site, also has suggested that it might close the site and offices in China after a cyber attack that targeted it and other companies.

TAGS: Google,China,Internet,censorship,Clinton

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